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2014 Women's Rugby World Cup
Ireland out to derail Kiwis' title bid
Tom Hamilton
August 4, 2014

Commanding wins for England and New Zealand set the benchmark in the opening round of the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup but in what is deemed to be the most competitive global gathering to date, there is still room for some surprises as round two of the pool stage takes place on Tuesday in Marcoussis.

USA v Kazakhstan - Pool B

12pm (BST)

Both teams fell to defeats in the opening round of the World Cup but the USA side will have more reasons for optimism. Kazakhstan went into their match against New Zealand with next to no chance of knocking over the four-time champions but they battled valiantly and were rewarded with one of the loudest cheers of the day from the local crowd when they managed to score a try, albeit ending up losing the match 79-5. The USA will offer a different challenge though Kazakhstan's players will have to pick themselves off the canvas after their bruising opener.

The USA pushed Ireland close in their opening match but eventually lost out 23-17. They will focus on reducing their penalty count on Tuesday.

Prediction: USA by 20


Australia v Wales - Pool C

2pm

Australia and Wales' opening round experiences could not have been more different. For Australia, they secured a morale-boosting 26-3 win over South Africa and cemented their credentials as potential winners of the tournament while Wales fell 26-0 to hosts France.

Rebecca Clough of Australia catches a lineout throw, Australia v South Africa, IRB Women's Rugby World Cup Pool C, French Rugby Federation headquarters, August 1, 2014
Australia claim a lineout in their opener © Getty Images
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For Australia, they did most of their business in the first-half and will concentrate on attempting to put together an 80 minute performance on Tuesday while Wales will be desperate to get some points on the board both in the match and pool. History does not make good reading for Wales. They have faced Australia twice in previous World Cup pool stages and are yet to register a win. Wales boss Rhys Edwards, who has recalled fit again Laurie Harries, Jenny Hawkins and Elen Evans, will hope they ignore form and get their campaign started come Tuesday.

Prediction: Australia by three


England v Spain - Pool A

2.45pm - Sky Sports

It was a near-perfect start for Gary Street's England in the opening round of the competition. They scored some wonderful tries against Samoa, with both wingers impressing with pace and their side-steps, and clocked up 65 points. Street will also probably be pleased that England experienced plenty of physicality. Samoa brought power to the match and although it was effectively over as a contest after 12 minutes when their fullback was issued a red card for a dangerous tackle, they enjoyed supremacy in the scrum and that will give England food for thought ahead of the game against Spain.

Spain go into the match as heavy underdogs having never beaten England, who make 12 changes for the match, in their previous nine encounters with Street's side winning their last encounter 61-0 back in 2012. Spain opened their World Cup with a loss to Canada.

Lydia Thompson of England breaks through the Samoa defence, England v Samoa, 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup, Paris, August 1, 2014
Lydia Thompson keeps her place in England's side © Getty Images
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Prediction: England by 50


Canada v Samoa - Pool A

4pm

Canada are the favourites to join England in the knockout stages from Pool A and secured maximum points in their opener against Spain as they scored four tries and took the match 31-5. Like Australia, Canada tailed off in the second-half and they too will want to put together a more dominant 80-minute performance.

But they will not have it their own way against Samoa. The Islanders were impressive against England with a brand of rugby focused around the set piece and the forwards and they will fancy their chances to cause Canada a few very real headaches. For Samoa they are without fullback Soteria Pulumu who was hit with a five-week ban for her tip-tackle on Natasha Hunt.

Prediction: Canada by five points


New Zealand v Ireland - Pool B

5pm - Sky Sports

Both sides have a 100% record in the World Cup but New Zealand will go into the match as overwhelming favourites. For Ireland, who make one change with Paula Fitzpatrick starting at No.6, they will have taken heart from the manner in which they closed out their game against the USA with Niamh Briggs in outstanding form scoring 18 of their 23 points but the Kiwis will be another step up.

Amy Day and Nia Davies tackle France's Safi N'Diaye, France v Wales, 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup, Paris, August 1, 2014
Wales do their best to bring down Safi N'Diaye © Getty Images
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New Zealand got a big win in their opener against Kazakhstan but they were not at their fluent, devastating best and will hope to put together a more complete performance. Ireland are aware the Kiwis are not at full tilt and Fiona Coghlan is hopeful Ireland will be able to exploit any weaknesses.

"They're world champions four times in a row but they have been beaten. England have beaten them, Canada ran them close there in the summer internationals. So there are chinks in their armour and it's (about) finding those chinks and exploiting them."

Prediction: New Zealand by 10


France v South Africa - Pool C

7.45pm - Sky Sports

France's first game looked to be a near-perfect outcome, as they whitewashed Wales 26-0, but Christian Galonnier will hope his side make a series of improvements across the board. They will hope Marion Lievre finds a similar groove to the first game as she was the outstanding player on the field and finished with two tries.

France will have the benefit of home support and will go into the match as favourites but as rugby has shown through the decades, underestimate a South African side at your peril. They will still be hurting from their opening round loss to Australia and suffered further woe in the build-up to Tuesday's match with their skipper Mandisa Williams handed a lengthy ban after being found guilty of striking and eye gouging in their opener.

Prediction: France by three

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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